In an email sent to South Lane School District (SLSD) staff and families on Monday, May 18, superintendent Yvonne Curtis outlined the most recent developments in how the global COVID-19 pandemic will impact local education and SLSD operations.
The Student Success Act (SSA) was passed during the Oregon Legislature’s 2019 session and, once fully implemented, was set to inject $2 billion every two years into statewide education beginning in the 2020-21 school year. SLSD was expected to receive $2.3 million in 2020-21 through the Student Investment Account (SIA) portion of the initiative, but coronavirus closures coupled with future economic uncertainty have put those plans in serious doubt.
“Even as we closed schools and began providing new services during the coronavirus pandemic, we hoped for these increased investments in schools,” Curtis said in the email. “As we close the ninth week of staying home, we face a new reality … The anticipated new state investments in school supports are no longer expected to make their way to Oregon Schools in full, if at all, next school year.”
Curtis specifically pointed to rising unemployment throughout the state — due to COVID-caused layoffs and business closures — as a factor which will significantly impact tax revenues and public budgets in the coming months and years. It may leave Oregon schools in a dire economic state for an undetermined amount of time.
In a press release issued the same day that SLSD email parents, Governor Kate Brown addressed the coming budgetary shortfalls.
“With many Oregon businesses restricted or shut down, travel suspended and jobs lost, we expect the revenue that we receive to fund state services will also be significantly reduced,” Brown said. “Our early discussion indicated this impact could be a reduction of $3 billion for the current budget period. We are exploring all available options to weather this recession, and I have directed state agencies to prepare prioritized reduction plans equaling a 17-percent reduction for the upcoming fiscal year as a planning exercise to explore all options.”
For their part, Curtis and the SLSD district office announced in Monday’s email the upcoming efforts that will aim to lessen the financial impact of these budgetary cuts for next school year.
“As we await more concrete financial information expected next week, South Lane School District is already slowing down hiring and spending, discussing furlough days and anticipating layoffs as we develop budget contingency plans,” Curtis wrote.
As schools have transitioned to online distance learning, making the average school day look very different, SLSD — and several districts in Lane County and Oregon at large — will be furloughing all staff four days over the final four weeks of the school year in an effort to save money for the fall.
Both of the district’s union groups support the decision as a necessary measure to guard the financial health of the district and SLSD has applied for the “Work Share Oregon” program that, along with the federal CARES Act funds, will allow district employees to collect state unemployment and benefits.
Furlough days at the end of this school year will also mean a change in school days and SLSD students will thus not have school on the following dates:
In Monday’s email, Curtis also provided updates on several other district operations: